Field-tested Methods for Dealing with Overwhelm

[I’m back from SILENT RETREAT but still collecting my thoughts. Besides, I thought this might be useful in the meantime.]

It’s been a busy month, people.

It’s been taxing.

Actually, it’s been just a notch below overwhelming. And I say that only because I was able to soldier on, which means it didn’t completely overwhelm me.

And given the number of times I’ve heard “I know exactly what you mean,” when describing my state of mind, I thought I would offer a resource. And, you know, notes for me to refer back to. ūüôā

  1. Write it down. This is more than an ad hoc to-do list. By writing down the things that were most on my mind, I was better able to triage them. The book I was working on was freaking me out way more than the blog posts, so the book got priority. Otherwise, it was too easy to let the book slide in favor of the quicker win of the posts.
  2. Pomodoro technique. Usually, I work in 20/20/20 blocks (two different projects and a “break” to do social media stuff). But this month, I needed a more focussed method. 25 minutes of work, 5 minutes of stretching, resting my eyes, and drinking water. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
  3. Excellent maintenance. This is my besetting sin: forgetting to take care of myself when I’m busy. This time I did half an hour on the Wii with my husband, made a point of eating healthy snacks, and brought a pitcher of lemon water to my office.
  4. Smile. This was a shock to me. Around day 10, I started to really have tight shoulders and a sore back. Then I realized that my “concentrating face” had gotten SERIOUSLY FIERCE. I looked like I was battling to the death with my word processor– and that the battle wasn’t going well. I stuck a post-it to the monitor, and the aches and (most of the) tension vanished.
  5. Relax. To me, this generally means I have passed the point of diminishing returns and there is no point in continuing. But, I learned to catch myself, and stop mid-afternoon to play Wii, nap/meditate on the bed, or sit on the patio.
  6. Put down some balls. As much as I like to juggle (having 3-5 projects on the go is how I like to roll) when I realized how much I was stressing about having quality content prepared for you guys, I decided to call SILENT RETREAT and stick a ‘Gone Fishing’ sign on the blog. I love you guys too much to want to phone it in. That freed up a lot of space, and I was tickled pink with all the support I¬†received¬†from you.

Conversely, commiserating about my overwhelm was seriously the worst thing I could to. I had to ban the topic completely, because talking about it only made it evident that I wasn’t working and I needed to be working and omigod, aaaaaaah I’m never going to get this all done!

Lesson learned… maybe not

I’ve done it before and I’m sure I will again, (and so will you, I reckon) so my pets, will you help me out here and tell me YOUR go-to techniques for fighting overwhelm? Vive la crowdsourcing!


9 thoughts on “Field-tested Methods for Dealing with Overwhelm”

  1. My Dear – it sounds like you’ve got ‘your’ system pretty well in hand! (Today, anyway – Yay!)My overwhelm usually stems from the opposite problem – wanting to have so much ‘already done’ that I fail (often epically) in the “actually <i>doing</i> any of it” category! My solution usually goes like this: 1)Turn OFF the computer!  2)Stretch  3)Smile  4)Do ONE thing until it’s done.  ~ Thanks for your continuing support and good example! Love and Bright Blessings ~ K

  2. Put down some balls always works for me. I call it “doing the total dodge.” It’s amazing how much you can put stuff off by promising anything and getting out of it later!

    1. I hate the dodge! A product of my upbringing, I suppose… I hate abdicating responsibility. I’d rather just not take it on at all, rather than be forced to say, I can’t handle this. 

    2. I certainly hate to bail as well, but better to admit defeat than get the beat down. Running away works! Knowing when to back down is wisdom and strength, precisely because you have to admit to yourself you had inflated expectations.  Uncomfortable, yet also satisfying! Because sometimes the win is to lose and let the Letdowner chew his own bum for a while!

  3. I’m rambling through your blog tonight…  Because I am overwhelmed and I need to do something just for me… and reading and connecting the others who I can relate to… is something I actually do for just me… So, it’s something I do to cope with the overwhelm.  Just having that connection reminds me I’m not alone.  I really enjoy your “Smile” – how simple is that and yet so easy to forget to do! You can’t genuinely smile without physically feeling some sort of relief! Awesome sauce!  I will lose myself – in a book, in headphones playing loud music, going for a run, taking a road trip with my camera, go to a movie by myself – usually late night after family in bed, I have tons of at home do it yourself spa treatments to aid in relaxation along with utilizing essential oils… and sometimes lunch or downtime with a friend I can dream with… I have an abundance of choices – but don’t ask me how often I remember to choose one of those things to do.  And when I forget to do that and get totally overwhelmed – then I will “run away” – nice hotel or a local retreat/bed and breakfast place not far from here – which I prefer because she will cook all my meals for me – and she is an amazing cook!

  4. So smart. I love B&Bs.One thing that works for me is lists. When I’m overwhelmed and I don’t know what to make for supper, there’s a sticky note on the fridge of meal ideas I could make in my sleep. You could do the same with your self care! In fact, I think I need to do that…

  5. Love all the suggestions, Shanna.¬† I am really going to practice smiling.¬† Karen’s #4 below has really helped me.¬† My husband is the king of getting one thing done well.¬† After 15 years of marriage, I see that his way does indeed work better than my “five irons in the fire” method.¬† I pick one thing to get done first and not to perfection…still working on this…then I move on to the other less important projects.¬† I am still a huge work in progress.

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